Small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of a dynamic economy: they provide competitive goods and services, create jobs and generate economic growth. Exploring all possible trading opportunities is vital to them and, most frequently, this means access to markets abroad to grow their business.
Ahead of the EBRD 2017 Annual Meeting and Business Forum, a panel discussion focused on Small Markets, Big Markets: Internationalisation and SMEs, moderated by Claudio Viezzoli, EBRD’s Managing Director for SME Finance and Development.
This topic lies at the core of what the EBRD wants to achieve when it works with businesses in its regions: to make them competitive, resilient and integrated, stressed EBRD President Chakrabarti in his introductory remarks.
But how can small businesses take advantage of opportunities in the international market? How can they prepare themselves? What challenges do they face?
Their participation in international supply chains is beneficial to the economy as a whole. It is usually welcome by large global corporates who like to cooperate with them in transition countries, explained Jane Rigler-Faircloth, EBRD Team Coordinator, Food and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FCMG).
However, local businesses need to be prepared. They need to gain the necessary know-how to become resilient to unexpected circumstances and downturns.
Multilateral development banks play a significant role in this, as they enable small companies to access the know-how and finance necessary to export and develop successfully their business, said Suzanne Gaboury from Dutch development bank FMO.
Nevila Luzi added the perspective of a local SME when she spoke about her own experience as Product Development Coordinator of Digit-ALB. She stressed the importance of constant innovation to succeed. In her case this meant a regular review on what the Albanian pay TV platform could offer to customers to stay a relevant player in the industry and continue to grow .
But it is not only industries themselves that undergo accelerated change. It is also the way in which they can offer their products and services. The use of e-commerce platforms has boomed in recent years with several thousands of businesses using their marketplace.
"Technology helps overcome globalisation challenges by seizing globalisation opportunities,” said Samuel Laurinkari, Head of EU Affairs at eBay. All that companies need is good interconnectivity, platform services, payment services and logistics to deliver products on time.
This point was echoed by Fikri Toros, President of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce. He stressed that SMEs need to be aware of the challenges of a globalised world and embrace them right from the start, especially in small markets.
Open markets do not merely benefit SMEs. They also help consumers to have access to a greater variety of competitive, high-quality goods and services. At the same time, a strong SME sector helps to develop strong sustainable economies across the globe.
The EBRD supports the development of SMEs through the Small Business Initiative in various ways: through direct finance, loans available through partner financial institutions and advisory services to provide them with the know-how they need to grow. The Bank also supports policy reform to improve the business climate in the countries where it invests.